A routine trip to attend an academic conference turned out to be a pilgrimage of all sorts. Not only have I searched and found a spiritual significance in this adventure, but also discoveries and realizations about culture, philosophy, art, love (lablablab!), and life in general. These stories are forever etched in my heart, my soul, my all and I consider it to be one of the greatest beats in my symphony of life.
Thailand is known for a lot of things popularized by mainstream media, such as lady-boys, surgeries of all kinds, tropical beaches, intricate temples and palaces, a whole lot more you can Google, and yes, Muaythai.
“The history of Muaythai is the history of the Thai people” as posted in the World Muaythai Council website (http://www.wmcmuaythai.org/about-muaythai). Indeed, eight days in Chiang Mai seem to equal 8 nightly matches of Muaythai. Muaythai events are like cockfighting derbies in the Philippines; there are regular patrons and money wagers are common.
They say that when you are on an adventure, you travel to the place not as a tourist, but as a humble guest ready to live as a local. So, on my 2nd day, I planned to visit a Muaythai gym.
Googling for gyms revealed around 20 or so places to train. Considering that I should be near Chiang Mai University which was the venue of the conference, and be near the city center as well, Chiangmai Muay Thai Gym presented itself to be the ideal place.
Located along Viengkaew Road (you’ll easily search for it on Google Maps or on the northwestern part of the city center), I entered the gym (which was on the 2nd floor of a large building) and introduced myself as a Filipino, excited and happy to learn about the art. Master Tawin, the head coach, along with all the coaching staff welcomed me warmly. Without further ado, I welcomed myself too, and to the changing room I goo. (Yes, it rhymes).
Chiangmai Muay Thai Gym (https://www.facebook.com/Chiangmai.Muay.Thai.Gym/) is about 400 square meters wide, large enough to accommodate 1 boxing ring, 8 punching bags and more, chairs and tables, a counter for various purposes, changing rooms, and various equipment. The floor is lined with artificial grass, and the height of the ceiling is around 20 meters. I have not seen a lot of gyms before but it would be the largest and nicest Muaythai gym I’ve seen so far.
Learning and practicing Muaythai is not merely a physical endeavor, but also an art form and philosophy. For example, a ritualistic dance called the Wai Kroo or Ram Muay is carried out before fighters engage in the ring. This tradition is meant to show honor to the fighter’s teacher, the sport of Muaythai and his or her country. The fighter will dance in each direction of the ring, touching each corner post with a prayer, showing his respect to his opponent and the spirits. The outpouring of respect to the opponent, seen as an honorable co-player, means that the sense of competition is not meant to destroy or ridicule the other but to see him or her as an essential component for knowing yourself more, measuring the result of your hard work, training and conditioning.
While I would have surely gained a ton of knowledge had I trained for a week or more, prior engagements only allowed me two days with master Tawin and the other coaches. On the other hand, those days have been very enlightening, happy and informative, I’ll surely come back to Chiangmai Muay Thai Gym again!
Within Laguna, Philippines? Looking for fitness and some Muay Thai too? Then visit the Pugilist Muay Thai Gym in Los Banos (https://www.facebook.com/PugilistLB), co-located at Jeffrey’s Gym along Lopez Avenue, opposite Jollibee at the Manila South highway-Lopez Avenue-Junction Road. 😉